Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Makers of Thalidomide Apologize...50 Years Later.

Excerpts from USA Today

The German manufacturer of a notorious drug that caused thousands of babies to be born with shortened arms and legs, or no limbs at all, has issued its first ever apology — 50 years after pulling the drug off the market.

Gruenenthal Group's chief executive said Friday the company wanted to apologize to mothers who took the drug Thalidomide during the 1950s and 1960s and to their children who suffered congenital birth defects as a result.

"We ask for forgiveness that for nearly 50 years we didn't find a way of reaching out to you from human being to human being," Harald Stock said. "We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the shock that your fate caused in us."

The drug is a powerful sedative and was sold under the brand name Contergan in Germany. It was given to pregnant women mostly to combat morning sickness, but led to a wave of birth defects in Europe, Australia, Canada and Japan. Thalidomide was yanked from the market in 1961 and was also found to cause defects in the eyes, ears, heart, genitals and internal organs of developing babies.

"It's a disgrace that it's taken them 50 years to apologize," said Astbury, of the Thalidomide U.K. agency, an advocacy group for survivors. "I'm gobsmacked (astounded)," he said. "For years, (Gruenenthal) have insisted they never did anything wrong and refused to talk to us."

Astbury said the drug maker should apologize not just to the people affected, but to their families. He also said the company should offer compensation. "It's time to put their money where their mouth is," he said. "For me to drive costs about 50,000 pounds ($79,000) for a car with all the adaptations," he said. "A lot of us depend on specialist care and that runs into the millions."

A German victims group rejected the company's apology as too little, too late.

"The apology as such doesn't help us deal with our everyday life," said Ilonka Stebritz, a spokeswoman for the Association of Contergan Victims. "What we need are other things."

Thalidomide is still sold today, but as a treatment for multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer and leprosy. It is also being studied to see if it might be useful for other conditions including AIDS, arthritis and other cancers.

Bonnie: Appalling. Could this apology be preparing us for thalidomide's approval for some of these other conditions discussed in the piece? Sadly, I can believe anything when it comes to pharmaceuticals.

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